The Newest Hope for Limiting Political Expression in America — and its Unintended Consequences
A top priority for liberals inside of government has become responding to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC ruling, which prohibits government from banning political speech by corporations when the speech is independent of a campaign organization. Possible responses have come in two flavors.
One response (endorsed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse at the end of last year) was a move to amend the Constitution to give government an enumerated power to limit the political activities of both corporations and individuals. This, so far, has not gained much favor with the public.
The second response, pubicly supported by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week, is an amendment to strip Constitutional rights from people when they act through corporations. Though presumably intended to be less egregious than the first solution — hey, it’s only “corporations” affected, and not individuals — this answer to the perceived problem is not as clean as some of its supporters might hope. As Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy explains…
…just as Congress could therefore ban the speech of nonmedia business corporations, it could ban publications by corporate-run newspapers and magazines — which I think includes nearly all such newspapers and magazines in the country….State legislatures and local governments could do the same. All of them could seize corporate property without providing compensation, and without providing due process. All corporate entities would be stripped of all constitutional rights…Given the scope of the “People’s Rights Amendment” that has been proposed, Rhode Island liberals may want to consider, for example, what its impact would be on collective bargaining organizations, which would no longer be covered under the US Constitution’s “no impairment of contracts” clause, allowing state governments to change the terms of contracts at will — though this might actually be a feature and not a bug in the minds of some of RI’s “pragmatic progressives“!